Spring is around the corner and I’m sure you outdoor lovers will start itching for a nice escape in Lebanon’s beautiful nature. Chouf, Jabal Moussa, Tannourine, Cedars of God, Ehden, Qadisha Valley, Jezzine… I’m pretty sure you’ve got all of these covered.
But have your hiking shoes gone as far as Akkar? Mine haven’t until lately; and what a shame to keep that piece of heaven waiting that long!
The northernmost governorate of Lebanon, Akkar is subdivided into 121 municipalities, Halba being the capital. Although Akkar might be the poorest region in Lebanon in terms of literacy, infrastructure, and services, it is for me the richest in greenery and nature.
So why go spend a weekend in Akkar?
– 1 –
Akkar is home to the most biodiverse forest in Lebanon.
The Qammoua forest, located circa 1,600m in the Akkar district, has been rated by specialists as one of the most beautiful forests in the world. Its uniqueness lies mainly in its biodiversity as it is home to more than 10 million trees of fifty different species (including, cypresses, oaks, cedars, junipers, and more, said to be more than a thousand years old!). If you haven’t been there yet, mark it on your calendars!
The forest is so big that it is easy to get lost in it. Many hiking trails are available and if you are not going with a hiking company in Lebanon, you can either have fun exploring the hiking trails alone, or get in touch with a local guide (for a safe choice, go with Lebanon Traveler’s recommendation: Nazih Qamaredine, 03 335 538).
I found my spot!
– 2 –
Akkar is home to the only hairy oak tree forest in Lebanon.
Another forest that is really pleasant to walk is the Ezer forest in Akkar (غابة العذر) , which happens to be on your way to Qammoua. It’s not a huge one, which could make it a nice stop before the big hike. The Ezer forest is known to be the only forest in the Middle East where grows the specific type of hairy oak tree, with around 4,000 trees as well as 100 varieties of wild flowers!
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Akkar is where Oyoun el Samak is.
These gorgeous lake pictures you see online and you can hardly believe it’s in Lebanon? Yes, this is nowhere but Oyoun el Samak. Located between the districts of Akkar and Denniyeh, this lake is a must-see if you’re in the area. It will not only make stunning Instagram pictures with its rivers, waterfalls, and surrounding landscapes, but also a great hiking destination!
– 4 –
Akkar is where the beautiful village of Qobayat is.
If you had to choose one village to visit in Akkar, let it be Qobayat. The biggest Christian village in the Akkar governorate and one of Lebanon’s oldest towns, Qobayat offers a lot to see, from eco-tourism to rural tourism, religious tourism (churches, mosques, convents, monasteries), monuments, and much much greenery. Most importantly, Qobayat offers beautiful hiking trails that you can discover either alone, with hiking companies in Lebanon, or with the Lebanese Mountain Trail, the longest hiking trail in Lebanon that starts right in Qobayat before completing its month-long North to South (or South to North) Lebanese mountain range.
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Akkar is where Haykal is.
Visiting Akkar was first and foremost to meet Haykal. I loved the personage of Haykal since I watched a documentary about him in the Lebanese film festival last year, called “Mayyel ya Ghzayyel/Those Who Remain”. A stop at Haykal Restaurant in Al Chambouk will definitely brighten your day. He will not only serve you the best Lebanese mezze but also tell you the funniest stories while drinking shots of his beloved Calvados bottle. A true villager, Haykal has dedicated his life to nature, spending his days working with his bare hands, whether building his own house, his restaurant, and the small houses he rents for guests today, or taking care of his crops, his sheep, and his land. An encounter you will never forget, I can guarantee you!
If you wish to spend a weekend in Akkar, Haykal Hostel is a modest yet adventurous way to reconnect with the wild nature of Akkar. For more info, you can contact the hostel on this number: 03-329650.